Transgender activist files petition in SC seeking provision of third gender option in PAN cards
(Reshma Prasad versus Union of India) A social activist from Bihar, Reshma Prasad, has filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court of India, seeking directions to the Union of India to create a separate third gender category on PAN cards, to enable transgender persons to get accurate identity proofs. HRLN filed the SLP on Reshma’s behalf after the Patna high court dismissed her previous PIL with a similar prayer. The petition said, “It appears that the online/offline systems of the Income Tax Department, despite the judgment passed in the National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India & Ors 2014 does not recognize third gender as a separate gender. It is humbly submitted that even the application for PAN does not have a separate option of ‘third gender’. PAN cards/numbers to date are being issued with gender as male or female only.” Reshma’s PAN card was created in 2012 and listed her as male. After the NALSA v UoI (2014) order, Aadhaar included third gender in its rolls and Reshma enrolled in its database under the transgender category. But this facility was not extended to PAN cards. Thus, when the government issued the notification making Aadhaar-PAN linkage mandatory, Reshma – and several other transgender persons across the country – could not get this done as her gender on the two cards do not match. As a result of this, Reshma is not able to file income tax returns as a transgender person as a gazette notification from the Ministry of Finance last year asks people to provide their Aadhaar numbers while fixing tax returns. On August 1, 2017, she sent a representation before the Chief Commissioner (Bihar and Jharkhand), Department of Income Tax, seeking to change her identity on her PAN card to avail income tax return for her future commercial activities. She visited their offices several times as well, but to no avail. The SLP contended that “preventing transgender persons receiving a PAN card by solely limiting registration to males and females is arbitrary, incongruent with the decision of the Supreme Court in NALSA (2014), and is inconsistent with numerous provisions of the Constitution...” It prayed that the court grant leave to appeal the Patna high court’s ‘hasty’ order, and to direct the Union of India and other respondents to recognise and provide for a third gender in the forms issued by the income tax departments. The matter was listed before the Supreme Court, and Reshma was represented by an HRLN advocate. The Chief Justice directed that a copy of the petition be served to the Attorney General of India, and listed the matter after eight weeks. On April 9, the ministry of finance published a Gazette notification announcing that the CBDT was amending the Income-tax Rules, 1962, to include a third gender category. This is a victory for the transgender population of India.